French Guineas takeaway: all the news as St Mark’s Basilica strikes for Aidan O’Brien at ParisLongchamp

By Nicholas Godfrey

So you know that neither Newmarket Guineas winner followed up at ParisLongchamp as St Mark’s Basilica claimed the Poule d’Essai des Poulains for Aidan O’Brien – but Ballydoyle stablemate Mother Earth was outpointed by shock winner Coeursamba in the Pouliches. Here’s some other stuff you might be interested in – plus videos and tweets.

What’s going on?

Poulains: St Mark’s Basilica is favourite for Prix du Jockey Club

After quickening really well to claim the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) with a fine turn of foot, St Mark’s Basilica may return to France for the Prix du Jockey Club on June 6.

Last year’s Dewhurst winner was cut to 9-4 favourite (from 5) by Paddy Power for the Chantilly Classic, while Ladbrokes go 11-4 – but Aidan O’Brien also mentioned the St James’s Palace Stakes as an alternative option.

“He has an option to go to Ascot or go back for the French Derby,” said the trainer. “The original plan was that he would go there and back for the French Derby.”

Ladbrokes make him 2-1 favourite for the Royal Ascot contest, whereas he is 7-2 (from 12) with Paddy Power.

Prix du Jockey Club (Ladbrokes): 11-4 St Mark’s Basilica, 6 Makaloun, 8 Van Gogh, 10 Cheshire Academy, Megallan, 11 Wembley, 12 Midtown, Pretty Tiger, 14 bar.

Five out of nine for Aidan O’Brien

Sent off slightly better than 4-1 on the pari-mutuel for the €600,000 contest, St Mark’s Basilica was a decisive winner by a length and three-quarters over Colosseo, who outran his 80-1 odds, with Breizh Eagle third.

The winner is the ninth overseas horse to land the French 2,000 Guineas, starting with the Guy Harwood-trained Recitation who started the ball rolling under Greville Starkey 40 years ago.

Five of the last six, however, have been trained by Aidan O’Brien, whose previous four winners were Landseer (2002), Aussie Rules (2006), Astronomer Royal (2007) and The Gurkha (2016).

Horse Racing St Mark's Basilica ParisLongchamp
St Mark’s Basilica (Ioritz Mendizabal) wins the Poule d’Essai des Poulains. Photo: France Galop/

Ioritz Mendizabal the go-to guy

Winning rider was Ioritz Mendizabal, a late call-up for Ballydoyle after original rider Pierre-Charles Boudot was suspended for three months while indicted on rape charges.

Mendizabal, 47, has long been popular as a safe pair of hands with visiting trainers – a reputation only boosted by the COVID restrictions of the last 12 months, during which he has also tasted G1 success on British-trained pair Mishriff and Audarya.

He has also ridden black-type winners in France in recent seasons for Mark Johnston, Hughie Morrison, William Haggas and John Quinn.

French background

The Poulains winner may be trained in Ireland but he has a lot of ‘French’ in his background, being a French-bred son of the Aga Khan’s G1 winner Siyouni. Bought for €1.3m at Tattersalls October Sales in 2019, he was an intended runner at last year’s Arc meeting before the O’Brien team was withdrawn amid the contaminated feed saga.

Poetic Flare: ‘Maybe it’s ground related’ – Manning

Jim Bolger’s Newmarket Guineas winner Poetic Flare produced a muddling effort to finish only sixth of the 12 runners. After racing quite keenly in the second rank behind a moderate gallop, he was briefly short of room and outpaced before staying on again.

“I got a lovely position but he just didn’t pick up for whatever reason,” said jockey Kevin Manning, speaking to the Racing Post. “Maybe it’s ground related, I don’t know.”

Pouliches: shock winner Coeursamba foils Ballydoyle double

Aidan O’Brien looked set to complete a French Classic double as Mother Earth was produced a furlong out by Christophe Soumillon in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, only for the Newmarket heroine to be outfinished by shock 37-1 winner Coeursamba, who won by a length and a quarter.

Coeursamba also had to survive a stewards’ inquiry into minor interference in the straight. She was a 66-1 shot on British industry SPs for the €500,000 event, in which Irish-trained Miss Amulet was a non-runner.

‘Pleasant surprise’ as Rouget lands fifth win

Coeursamba was a fifth winner of the race for reigning French champion trainer Jean-Claude Rouget after Elusive Wave (2009), Avenir Certain (2014), Ervedya (2015) and La Cressonniere (2016). “It’s a pleasant surprise,” said Rouget.

The filly was ridden by former Italian prodigy Cristian Demuro, winning his seventh French Classic since starting off with Le Cressonniere’s Pouliches/Diane double in 2016. He teamed up with regular employer Rouget to win the Arc with Sottsass in 2020.

‘I feel she is better at a mile’ – Rouget

Although the winner was introduced into Prix de Diane betting, trainer Jean-Claude Rouget suggested she was more likely to stick to a mile, mentioning French G1s such as the Prix Rothschild and Prix Jean Prat. She does not hold an entry in the Coronation Stakes.

“It is possible,” said Rouget on Sky Sports Racing. “There is the Prix Rothschild or she can run in the Prix Jean Prat against the colts, or we could supplement. I don’t think she is a filly for the Diane; I feel she is better at a mile.”

‘When I saddled her today, I felt she had grown’

The winner, a daughter of G1-winning two-year-old The Wow Signal, changed hands for €400,000 at the Arqana Arc Sale in October last year and carries the colours of Qatari owner Abdullah Bin Fahad Al Attiyah.

She won just one of her seven previous starts, finishing third in the Class 1 Prix du Louvre over course and distance last month on her most recent outing.

“She’s progressed a lot since the Prix du Louvre,” said Rouget. “When I saddled her today, I felt she had grown. ”

Shall we talk about it?

Aidan O’Brien (trainer of St Mark’s Basilica): “The plan last year was that he would go to the Lagardere and then on to there. He quickens very well. He has an option to go to Ascot or go back for the French Derby. The original plan was that he would go there and back for the French Derby.
“He’s been working lovely and you saw the way he progressed through last year. They all couldn’t go to Newmarket and when he was to go to France last year, we said we’d stick that way.”

Ioritz Mendizabal (St Mark’s Basilica jockey): “I spoke with Aidan this morning and he told me to get as good a start as possible, maybe have two or three in front of him with a fast pace.
“But I got a bad start – maybe it was the long time since his last race – but after the corner he took a good position behind Christophe [Soumillon, on Sealiway] and he was relaxed so I waited and for me I think more distance could be good, maybe the Jockey Club. Next time he will be better.”

Gianluca Bietolini (Colosseo’s trainer): “I’ve lost my voice! I’m very happy. I knew that the horse was going to be a 100% today and he proved it. He is a horse that is a somewhat difficult to prepare because we need to get a lot of work into him in the mornings: and he’s endowed with a really impressive physique. Last time out the ground was too fast for him: as he’s a horse that likes very, very soft ground. He’s an atypical US-bred. The give in the ground was a plus as was the draw.”

Joel Boisnard (Breizh Eagle’s trainer): “He ran freely during the race but still ran a blinder despite his inexperience. He’s a colt on an upward curve, one that is still going to progress. He needs to sharpen up. I think he will be kept to a mile. The ground didn’t bother him but he will certainly be even better on good ground.”

Kevin Manning (Poetic Flare’s jockey): “I got a lovely position but he just didn’t pick up for whatever reason. Maybe it’s ground related, I don’t know.”

Jean-Claude Rouget (Coeursamba’s trainer): “It’s always a great pleasure to win a Group 1. It’s not easy, the race was very open and my filly showed very good things last year at the top level, but didn’t win a Group race.
“She had a good rest in the stud all winter and we gave her a very smooth first race. Today she was on top, she had a good draw and she did the double acceleration I like to see for Group 1 horses.
“She progressed a lot from the Prix du Louvre. When I saddled her today I thought she had grown a lot. I think she will stay at the mile.”

Cristian Demuro (Coeursamba’s jockey): “You always have to have belief! She came back very well from her last race and today was just a dream. I think it’s Jean-Claude Rouget that makes the difference. She stepped up to the distance really well. She accelerated brilliantly and the low draw was a definite advantage.”

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